Vintage Italian Cantilever chairs: How do I make them look new again?

Got my hands on 5 of these Italian cantilever chairs - you can even see the "Made in Italy" ingrained in the wood.
My question is what to do about that hideous green fabric. I thought about getting it cleaned and leaving as is, but the more I've looked at them, the more I can't stand having something SO GREEN in front of me all the time. I'm a little OCD about colors, ha! I also considered re-upholstering, but the backs are attached in such a way that you'd have to break the wood to remove the current fabric. Any tips, advice, ideas?
Also, some of the wood is chipped. Any ideas how to fix that? Would it look stupid if I paint the wood?
And, of course, the brass. Best way to polish/clean it?
  21 answers
  • 7665645 7665645 on Jun 22, 2016
    I love the vintage style. I can't tell what the fabric is made from, but it is possible to dye upholstery with reupholstering. You can use Ritt dye diluted with water and paint or spray it on the upholstery. Just make sure it dries fully before you sit in it.
    • Oksana Radionova Oksana Radionova on Jun 22, 2016
      Thanks so much for the suggestion, Cara! See, I didn't even know there was such a thing as fabric paint – that's why I love HomeTalk; I learn something new every day! The fabric is very coarse to the touch, so definitely not ideal. Will look into Ritt dye! Thanks again!
  • Janet Pizaro Janet Pizaro on Jun 22, 2016
    You can paint them with fabric paint. Just be sure to use painters tape on the wood.
    • Oksana Radionova Oksana Radionova on Jun 22, 2016
      Thank you for your help, Janet! I was just telling the commenter above you that I had no idea fabric paint even existed! :) Definitely looking into this option!
  • Pat Moran Pat Moran on Jun 22, 2016
    You can paint the upholstery or pop off the seat/back and recover it. But, have you researched these chairs online at all? They look like late 1950-1970 style - You may have found a real treasure with, just in case they are valuable and if the current material is the original, you might want to just cover over the green....from the pics it looks like it is in good shape. You can just wrap the seat and back with some extra batting for a bit more padding if you wanted it. The brass frames look a bit worn, but you could easily spray paint those and wood can always be brought back to the original.....but, I really recommend you do more research on these before you do anything....
    • Oksana Radionova Oksana Radionova on Jun 22, 2016
      Thanks for the suggestions, Pat! I have definitely done a fair share of research on these; they appear to be really good replicas of the original 1920 Breuer chair that retails anywhere from $100 to $300 a piece. I hardly doubt they're original, despite the "made in Italy" engraving, simply because I picked them up from someone's garbage pile on the side of the road. Crazy, right?
  • Chris aka monkey Chris aka monkey on Jun 22, 2016
    i think they are gorgeous just like they are, but Breuer Chair company sells seats and backs for they chairs hope this helps xx
    • Oksana Radionova Oksana Radionova on Jun 22, 2016
      I knoooow, I originally planned to keep them as is, but the longer I look at them, the more I'm convinced that I simply can't have so much color in front of me all the time. I wish it wasn't so! :( I think I've come across the Breuer Chair Company in my research on the chairs, but it didn't occur to me that they'd sell replacement parts! What a great idea; I will definitely look into it! Thanks for the suggestion!
  • on Jun 22, 2016
    Those are stunning and LUCKY you to have found them ! I found 2 Milo Baughman chairs tossed out once. I still feel fortunate for that find ! I would take Chris's suggestion and call thee company and see what they have to say....BTW...we have been thinking about a trip to Chattanooga. I have never been there but it keeps popping up in my world and I think I would REALLY like it.
    • See 2 previous
    • on Jun 22, 2016
      Yes ! I think I would LOVE it there ! Want to check it out as it may be on are list for moving to !
  • on Jun 22, 2016
    Also if you want to clean up the chrome I recommend Bar Keepers Friend.
  • on Jun 22, 2016
    I have driven from end of the country to the other more than once and have yet to be in that area....Nashville, Atlanta, even a drive through Chattanooga but no time spent. Thank you, Liz ! I will do that. Thinking about maybe where to live next ! Moved to Plano recently for hubbies job (from Austin) and oh my.....!! Dallas area NOT my cup of tea!
  • Ranger Ranger on Jun 23, 2016
    Perhaps take it to a car detailer, they deal with all those elements already and could probably do repairs or advise what you could do.
  • Tweedel Dee Tweedel Dee on Jun 23, 2016
    If you mask the wood carefully, you could do fabric spray paint in the color of your choice.
  • Kcama Kcama on Jun 23, 2016
    Paint the fabric? There are lots of suggestions in Hometalk for painting chair fabric. Of course, bright green is my favorite color! If the nicks aren't too bad, wood filler could take care of them and you wouldn't have to paint the wood.
  • Imt7313135 Imt7313135 on Jun 23, 2016
    If the metal is brass, I would use Brasso and then put paste wax (like a Turtle Wax?) over it so you didn't have to do it again anytime soon. The wood should be easy enough to clean with something like Murphy's Oil Soap as long as you didn't completely soak the stuff and let it dry very well. The wood itself is beautiful. If you paint the fabric it will change the texture so be aware and try it out on something else like a pillow first. This is an awesome find. Good luck!
  • Johnchip Johnchip on Jun 23, 2016
    Looking for a while now at the pictures of the chairs. I have been trying to imagine another fabric.. but I find the color is 'meant to be' as a part of their general aesthetic. The 'click' between the honey color wood and the green was intentional. The fabric looks in great shape, you might want to clean it with a fabric foam cleaner, . I would clean up the brass, with brasso and polish, then also polish up the wood and find a way to live with them by decorating around the color or sell them to someone who appreciates their inspired natural modern Italian beauty.
  • Valerie Fahey Valerie Fahey on Jun 23, 2016
    I would not touch the fabric and only repair the metal. You might be damaging very valuable chairs.
  • Phyllis Downing Phyllis Downing on Jun 23, 2016
    Look into painting the chairs. There are good fabric paints and if they are leather even better. Trace a graphic design or whatever you choose and go to it. A pewter paint for the metal or a grey would look great. Be sure to protect the fabric before painting the metal. Would love to get my hands on those chairs. Rehupolstery is also an option. Go funky.
  • Jennie Lee Jennie Lee on Jun 23, 2016
    Personally, I think the chairs look great as is. They may, as Valerie said, be quite valuable. If I were you, I'd look into selling the chairs and getting money to buy something more to your taste. If you really want to make them over, check the "brass" with a magnet first. They are probably only brass-plated steel. Beware of polishing off the brass finish! Also, they are probably lacquered over the brass, so you'd need to strip them first.
  • Lynn Palmatier Lynn Palmatier on Jun 23, 2016
    You really should do some research on the chairs to see if they are vintage and valuable. The metal looks like it is chromed. The legs look as thought the chrome is wearing off. You could have the metal rechromed, but that may be expensive. Unless the chairs are of great value I would just spray paint the metal. Looks as though the chair back and seat can be removed (screwed in) for painting. Another painting option depending on your decor, you could paint them black or a bronze color which would really make the wood and fabric stand out.
  • Doreen Dwviniczuk Doreen Dwviniczuk on Jun 23, 2016
    My girlfriend just painted a chair similar to this and she used Annie Sloan Chalk Paint. I was a little skeptical at first but it does look great, and wears well too. It was featured at the store she bought the paint from. I do agree with the above comments that you should research these chairs, I would hate to see you lose out on something so fabulously vintage.
  • William William on Jun 24, 2016
    If "Made in Italy" is only stamped on the wood, you have Marcel Breuer reproduction chairs made by Knoll. Marcel Breuer used chrome tubing in all his chairs. "Made in Italy" was stamped on the chrome frame, not on the wood. Marvel Breuer could not get a copyright on his designs due to the fact that many makers used tubular frames. Hence a lot of knock offs. As Marcel Breuer reproductions made by Knoll, they do have some value: about $250 a chair. If they were actual Marcel Breuer chairs they could fetch about $1000 a chair, but with so many knock offs and very few collectors the demand is not there. Hope this helps.
    • See 1 previous
    • William William on Jun 24, 2016
      Personally, I love them the way they are. Retro and timeless. You could paint the fabric with fabric paint, your color choice. I would paint the wood black and polish the brass. Black and brass, black and gold go great together.
  • on Jun 24, 2016
    Such interesting info and you have done the smart thing by contacting the company and finding out what you have. You now are faced with lots of decisions as to what to do with them so you can really enjoy them.
  • Nancy Nancy on Jul 06, 2016
    As an antique dealer, these appear to be reproductions and I agree with William's post. If you plan to USE them, just change out the fabric. Leave the frame and wood alone. Just clean the frame and wood up a BIT. Don't overdo it. They might fetch as much as $100 each with the right fabric choice. There is not much demand for just two chairs.
    • Oksana Radionova Oksana Radionova on Jul 06, 2016
      Hi Nancy, thanks so much for your input! It's always a big help to hear the opinion of a professional! As I specified within the post, I actually have five chairs so if you think they could get as much as $100 a piece, I may try to sell them on Chairish or something similar. Thanks again for your help!
  • Annie Doherty Annie Doherty on Aug 21, 2016
    Hi I love these chairs and whether they are reproductions or not try and have them valued and sell as are. Many people would cherish them and happily pay good money for them, particularly if you have five chairs, someone may want a set of four and you can keep one?You can destroy the value sometimes by doing too much and over cleaning or restoring. Good luck I hope that they find a good home as they are beautiful and so retro and chic.